Ottawa design firm ‘Re4m’ is changing the way businesses see scraps

“We encourage these organizations to think of alternative solutions, rather than having it go in the landfill,” says Re4m founder Heather Jeffery.


A retail display at Hazeldean mall in Kanata, created by Re4m using upcycled materials (courtesy of Re4m).


Next week is Earth Day, and eco-conscious vendors are coming together for an eco-market. Landscapers, zero-waste grocery stores, bike tire repairs, a seed library and thrift shop are all lined up to participate in this market on Sat, Apr. 20, 2024. 

This year marks the third eco-market, and it’s hosted by the design firm Re4m, (pronounced reform). It’s the only known recycling firm of its kind in Ottawa, creating one-of-a-kind pieces for businesses by using upcycled scraps that would otherwise end up at the landfill. 

Re4m’s founder Heather Jeffery discovered a necessity for this service after working in the retail industry. 

“At this retail store they would just like, throw out their displays all the time. If it was outdated or last season they would just throw them out,” she recalls. 

This came at a time when she’d just graduated from industrial design at Carleton. “I love crafting,” she says. “I love hands-on types of building.”

Pairing this with her passion for the environment, she wanted to take the old displays and find a new life for them, so she did. 

“And I just kind of realized, wow, there’s so much opportunity city-wide, so many retailers who are always throwing out displays,” she says. 

Re4m has taken in many unique displays and materials from shops, businesses, construction companies and even museum exhibits. These enterprises will call on Re4m to collect scraps and materials, otherwise bound for the dump. 

“Just picture walking through a shopping mall and seeing very interesting window displays in stores, we get a lot of those funky things,” says Jeffery. She notes that they’ve currently got a sparkling diamond display in storage, complete with metallic finishes. 

The firm has also received two old radios, one from around the 1940s that they converted into a wine rack and another that was modernized with bluetooth functions. 

A vintage radio donated to Re4m and upcycled into a wine rack (courtesy of Re4m).


“So much material that ends up in the landfill and I just wanted to seize the opportunity and find a way to not have it go to the landfill,” she says. Once Re4m collects these materials, they’re stored until an appropriate design project comes up.

Then, they’re stripped of coatings and finishes and used in a brand new upcycled item, which is typically for exhibitions, trade show booths, signage, or furniture. 

The firm is currently working on a solid maple line for a furniture rental company, creating classic sets, but Jeffery says she admires the oddballs every now and then. 

“Someone comes in and they’re like, ‘we need a seven-foot tall Easter egg!’ Or, ‘we need a fake building front that looks like Santa’s Village!’ I really love that stuff,” she says.

A Santa’s Village retail display for the holidays, made by Re4m (courtesy of Re4m).

According to Jeffery, Re4m’s mission is to shift the mindset of local businesses and industries that traditionally sees scrap and offcuts as waste. “We encourage these organizations to think of alternative solutions rather than having it go in the landfill,” she says.

Re4m and the vendors of the eco-market are among a significant amount of the community looking to reduce their waste. Not only is climate change a pressing issue in its own sense, but Ottawa’s only public dump, the Trail Road Landfill, is running out of space. 

This landfill has been operating since the ‘80s with a waste footprint over 150 football fields wide. Recent estimates suggest it could reach capacity in a little over a decade. 

Through her work with Re4m, Jeffery notes that she’s found small and medium-sized enterprises looking to do better to reduce waste and emissions. 

“There’s a lot of different types of organizations that are pursuing circular economy, recycling, upcycling, or even just environmental initiatives,” says Jeffery. This includes the vendors that Re4m will be hosting on Saturday. 

For Jeffery, the community is what keeps her going. She points to a number of clients, colleagues, and fans of the firm. 

“For Re4m, honestly, we just are so excited to see the community come together and come to this event and just, excited about environmental initiatives,” she says.

For more information on Re4m’s eco-market, head to the market’s Eventbrite.

Listen to this conversation as heard on CHUO’s weekly show The Mosaic: